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Prince: His real legacy is teaching us ‘life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last'

Prince pictured at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles

"DOES Mummy look like this man?" I asked the toddler, standing resplendent in a puffed sleeves, a studded waistcoat and thin scarf holding a CD next to myself.

"Yes," he replied convincingly. "Mummy looks like man."

Most days that's not what I want to hear when I head out to work in the morning. But it was yesterday and the man was Prince.

Along with Michael Jackson, he was the soundtrack to my earliest childhood, provided via the jukebox that was my big brother's record collection.

I could sing all the words to `When Doves Cry' before I even knew what the lyrics were about.

We have lost so many music icons in the last few years, David Bowie going to the great concert hall in the sky just three months ago.

But there was no one like Prince.

The footage from a 1983 James Brown concert, when the Godfather of Soul called first Michael Jackson and then Prince to the stage sums it up.

Three legends, three innovators, three musical geniuses - but it was Prince who was king of that show.

I felt genuine grief when Jackson died and in the hours following the shocking news of Prince's death I found myself repeatedly humming the refrain from `American Pie'.

But, while the former made me want to gather up all the pull-out tributes from newspapers, only Prince made me want to throw on the most flamboyant outfit I could get away with on a work day and dance.

Stupendously talented - writing, playing, singing, producing some of the most distinctive songs of all time.

During a 2007 concert at London's O2, he teased us with the opening chords of classic after classic, shouting: "Too many hits. Too many hits."

Unlike Bowie and Jackson, who seemed indestructible because they ruled the charts for decades, Prince Rogers Nelson was like a comet, burning through the musical landscape with a stunning brightness and infectious energy.

Prince was joy.

His genius was to mix the sacred and the sexual in his songs - the album Purple Rain prompting future US second lady Tipper Gore to invent the warning label `Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics' - but also to wrap incredibly heavy lyrics in a package of exuberant funk.

It meant that your head was while to harrowing poetry about Aids deaths, crack and heroin addiction and gun crime, your feet were tapping and your heart was singing.

There is a reason that the quote that is flying round the internet as fans come to terms with his death is "Dearly Beloved...we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life...", from `Let's Go Crazy'.

He never shied away from the pain and darkness that is part and parcel of life - how could he, knowing the depths of sorrow himself, not least when his baby son, Boy Gregory, died in 1996, a week after birth from a rare defect of the skull.

But he was here to help you get up, God damn it. Get up and dance your way through it.

As Mr Nelson said so much better than I ever could: "Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last."

Prince shouldn't be dead, but he will never be gone.

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